Before You Have Fun in the Summer Sun, Learn the ABC’s of Skin Cancer
John L. Keefe
There are high rates of skin cancer in New England. According to CDC data, at least 20 out of every 10,000 Massachusetts residents developed a melanoma in 2009. The rates are even higher in Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont. In those states, the 2009 melanoma rate was at least 23 out of every 10,000.
As the weather warms up, New England residents will spend more time outdoors. However, unprotected exposure to the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer. Here are some skin cancer facts:
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
- Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than of breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, and colon cancer combined.
- One of every 55 people will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, in their lifetime.
- One person dies of melanoma each hour.
Everybody needs sun. Sun prevents depression and helps our bodies produce vitamin D. But too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the skin and cause cancer. To protect yourself from UV rays, follow these tips:
- Avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when UV light is the strongest.
- Use clothing to cover your skin when you are in the sun. Wear a hat to protect your head and face.
- Wear sunscreen. Put on sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors. Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply sunscreen frequently when you are in the sun.
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps.
- Wear sunglasses that block UV light.
- Use extra care near water, snow, and sand.
- Check your skin monthly.
Skin cancer, even melanoma, can be treated if it is detected early. Check your skin at least once a month. Watch moles and skin growths for any changes. See a doctor if you notice any of the following:
- Asymmetry: Cancerous moles and growths tend to be asymmetrical. If one side of a mole does not look like the other, see a doctor.
- Border Irregularity: Healthy moles have smooth edges. If the edges of a growth or mole are ragged, notched, or blurred, get the growth checked.
- Color: A healthy mole has a uniform color. If the color of a mole or growth is uneven, with shades of tan, brown, black, red, white, and blue, get the mole checked.
- Diameter: Any growth that is larger than the size of a pencil eraser may be an indicator of cancer.
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